Are you considering hosting a Stewardship Sunday for your parish?
What are your goals for this stewardship committment?
Remember a parish with stewardship as a way of life, will not only reach their initial goals, they will plant fruits for the future of the Church.
Whatever you think your goal is, it is important to follow these 5 steps:
- Follow Up
Step 1: Information
- Do you have a Stewardship Committee? Does each member understand the ministry of Stewardship? Does each member have a role? Are you using the talents God has given you? Can you identify with every personality type sitting in the pews? Are you all extroverted? How will you reach out to an introvert?
- Have you created a timeline for this commitment? Do you have a calendar of events and themes that correspond with what is already happening in the parish? Remember, this isn't a "new program" this is a Way of Life.
- Is the Pastor on board? What about the parish elders who think "things are fine the way they are"? Do you have outside resources backing up this initiative?
Step 2: Education
- If someone knocked on your door and asked you to dedicate two hours of your time to their cause, would you do it? Probably not. You'd ask "What's this all about?" When people are sitting in the pews on commitment Sunday you don't want them to be asking "What's this all about?" You want them to be educated. That begins as soon as step 1 is finished.
- Nothing goes around a parish faster than the offering basket and gossip. Drop a few hints and nibbles for people to become curious about this "stewardship thing". Provide tangible examples of how stewardship will benefit your parish. This means becoming transparent with finances, enrollment and areas that may be hard to talk about. If the parishioners know what's going on, they will see where to volunteer their talents.
- If you are asking for sign-up for specific ministries, be sure it is clear what that ministry does and clarify all uncertainties. What is RCIA? CYM? MDO? The convenience of acronyms may scare away unfamiliar parishioners.
- Mailing letters and postcards is an tried and true communication effort. But nothing goes further than a personal invitation in-person or by phone.
- Educate your stewardship committee on the different people in your parish. Maybe there is an accountant who just joined the parish. Or maybe there is a teacher who retired early and is bored at home. Knowing WHO is in the pews will help you make a connection and extend a personal invitation for their commitment. Could this accountant be a new finance committee member? Is this teacher a good fit for RCIA or CCE?
Step 3: Witness
- If it's never been done before, how do we know it works?
- If your parish has never had a commitment Sunday before, reflect on the ways stewardship has effected a person, family or ministry and share this in a Sunday Witness Talk. With so many phases of stewardship (prayer, time, talent, faith, vocations, treasure, earth) someone on your stewardship committee will have a witness story to share with the congregation.
- Children are stewards too! Consider featuring a child sharing the difference they made by saving 10% of their allowance or recycling their out-grown clothes.
Step 4: Commitment Sunday
- The entire mass should center around Stewardship on this Sunday. It should be blatantly obvious to the congregation that stewardship is a Christ centered ministry. With the pastor on board, the homily can easily speak to stewardship.
- When the moment of commitment occurs keep the church quiet. Allow the Holy Spirit to work through the liturgy of the mass. Fr. Andrew Kemberling, author of Making Stewardship a Way of Life, asks his congregation to pick up the stewardship prayer at the end of the pew and read it aloud in unison. Then he asks his congregation to turn over or open the prayer card and begin to share their commitment. It's already in their hand! They can't say they never saw it!
- Be sure there is a copy of the commitment for the steward and a copy for the church. Ask them to leave one copy in the church and take one copy. This holds both the steward and the stewardship committee responsible with following up.
Step 5: Follow Up
- Why would you go through steps 1-4 without following up! This is the most important step! And the step that should be completed the quickest.
- Your parishioners will be excited about their new commitment to Christ and His church. But if the fire inside them isn't kept warm, if the embers slowly burn out, four weeks later when you invite them to your ministry meeting, they will realize they weren't that passionate about their commitment. Use their initial passion and follow up immediately after commitment Sunday! This is where your stewardship committee, ministry leaders and parish leadership will come in handy, especially if they are on board with the Stewardship concept.
- If parishioners are not contacted (even if their help isn't needed immediately) they will be more reluctant to come forward in the future because they will assume their time and talents are not needed or valued. This is worse than never having asked them in the first place!
This stewardship commitment can and should happen annually. Create a timeline that works for you. Your next stewardship sign-in can be a "Renewal" to commit again or commit to an additional ministry.
As diocesan members of the International Catholic Stewardship Conference we are able to provide you with the following resources to guide your Stewardship Sunday:
Pastoral and Strategic Planning - including Stewardship planning
Don't forget the USCCB's Pastoral Letter on Stewardship: Stewardship a Disciple's Response
and a step-by-step How To book A Complete Guide for Catholic Parishes: Making Stewardship A Way of Life
(Both of these books are available from the Lubbock Diocese Office of Stewardship and Development)
There is no cut and paste stewardship method. You know your parish is unique and each parish is different. Keep in mind that you are planting seeds! You may not reap your harvest in the next week, month or year. But a consistent outlook of Stewardship as a way of life will provide many fruits in the life of your parish!